If you ask ren what kind of music she makes, her response may surprise you. “Tastefully weird,” she’ll say. And yet, no descriptor would be better suited to characterize the enigmatic rising pop star’s personal brand of deeply reflective, yet undeniably relatable, left-of-center alt-pop.
Hailing from Toronto, the prodigious 17-year-old singer-songwriter was destined for pop stardom long before she signed with Geffen Records and racked up more than 5 million streams on streaming (with only two songs out at the time, by the way). Inspired by the work of icons like Bob Dylan (“Growing up, my dad would tell me that he’s the best songwriter in the world,” ren wisely recalls) and Amy Winehouse, as well as atmosphere- and emotion-driven films like Coraline and Call Me By Your Name, ren’s creative childhood was packed with piano and singing lessons, musical theater, movies, and writing stories — activities encouraged by the young performer’s artistic-leaning family.
Though she was always interested in singing, it was during one serendipitous open mic night in 2016 when 14-year-old ren realized she was truly meant to make music. In early 2019, just two years after her open mic revelation, ren released her debut single “waves,” an atmospheric, wistful ode to burgeoning romance. But it was a few months later that she was catapulted into the upper echelons of digital fame when her second single, the twisted love song “mind games,” went viral thanks to its unexpectedly edgy tone, instantly catchy hook, and eerie, Tim Burton inspired music video.
ren’s debut EP — a genre-spanning collection of soul-baring, youth-driven songs about young love, anxiety, restlessness, and self-image, among other personal topics — indeed captures the fleeting, ultimately beautiful uncertainties that come with growing up. Sure, streaming and social media numbers are a fantastic way to quantify an artist’s impact (ren’s got both in droves), and it’s an impressive feat to be named on lists like Apple Music Artist of the Week (May 2019) or Soundcloud’s Artist to Watch (August 2019), but for ren, the true measurement for success is found in the salient connection between artist and listener.